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Parents with drinking problems risk losing child custody

While courts are becoming more aware of the importance of a child spending equal time with both parents, judges are also dealing with an alarming increase in addiction-related issues. The nature of addiction makes it difficult for the addict to care for himself or herself, let alone the urgent needs of a child.

It is not unusual for child advocates to face a difficult task finding a suitable guardian for a child because generations within the family suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol. In fact, one study showed that over half of the child custody cases presented in one year involved at least one parent's addiction to alcohol. Your case may be numbered among those.

Investigating the scope of the addiction

You may understand the importance of allowing your child to bond and interact with both you and your co-parent. However, if your former spouse has an alcohol problem, he or she may find it difficult to keep a job or manage a clean and stable home life. A court may determine that this is not in the best interests of your child.

When custody hearings begin, it is not unusual for the court to investigate the background and lifestyle of the petitioners. If you or others have alerted the court to your spouse's addiction, further investigation may be necessary:

  • The court may require regular blood tests.
  • The court may inquire into the number of DUI arrests on your spouse's record.
  • A judge may inspect your spouse's criminal record for other alcohol-related arrests, such as public drunkenness or fights.
  • A judge may order a psychiatric evaluation to determine the seriousness of your spouse's addiction.
  • In some cases, the court may call upon family and friends to testify under oath about your spouse's drinking.

It will not be enough for you to say your spouse has an alcohol problem, but the accumulation of witnesses and testimony will give the judge a good appraisal of whether your co-parent is fit to share custody of your children.

There are also some mitigating factors that may positively influence a judge's custody decision regarding your spouse. For example, if your spouse has successfully completed an alcohol treatment program or is attending regular sobriety meetings, the court may be moved to leniency in awarding custody.

A legal advocate

The best interests of the child are the most vital factors courts consider when making custody decisions. Ideally, a judge would not place a child in the custody of an addicted parent who could endanger the child in any way. If you have concerns about your custody settlement because of an alcoholic spouse, the advice of a lawyer may be reassuring. Your attorney will help you present your case to the court for the safety and protection of your child.

If you are concerned that your ex-spouse's drinking has escalated since the court issued the custody order, your attorney will advocate for your cause and work to facilitate a speedy resolution.

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